What Can You Do With An Anthropology Degree?

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Anthropology is commonly known as the study of humanity. It utilizes the main sciences—biological, physical, and social—and various humanities to generate an understanding of former and present societies and human interactions with one another and their environment. It focuses on everything from the evolution of human societies to human ecology. What can you do with a degree in anthropology? You can become anything from a museum curator to a professional translator. This article takes a closer look at the subject of anthropology, as well as higher education facilities that offer degree programs in anthropology and what sorts of jobs you can get once you earn a degree in anthropology.

Types of Anthropology

People studying anthropology examine human behavioral patterns and survival methods in addition to human relations around the world. Students majoring in anthropology can focus their studies on specific geographic locations to gain a more in-depth understanding of past and present cultures and diversity in those areas. They may also choose to concentrate on one or more of the five main types of anthropology briefly described below.

Archaeology – the study of material objects and environmental conditions conclude on past human activity and culture; objects may be obtained from thousands of years ago or merely decades past.

Biological anthropology – the study of the evolution of humanity, including behavioral habits and survival tactics as well as biological aspects; may also incorporate the comparison of humans vs. primates.

Linguistic anthropology – the study of how humans communicate with one another individually and on larger scales, including in-depth analysis of language.

Sociocultural anthropology – the study of various cultures, noting similarities and differences within a society and in comparison to other human societies; may focus on diverse topics such as nationality, sexuality, and gender.

Applied anthropology – the application of theories and methods of research and observation from one or more type(s) of anthropology to social issues as means to address and resolve these issues within societies; used at law firms, government agencies, medical schools, and more to benefit communities.

How to Get an Anthropology Degree

If you are interested in exploring anthropology in college and you are still in high school, there are a few general courses that may help prepare you for college programs in anthropology. Studying world history and a foreign language in high school can enhance your knowledge of past civilizations, instilling some background knowledge that may be helpful during your journey through learning the ins and outs of anthropology.

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

If you wish to pursue a future in anthropology, you should also consider a summer camp or field school—like Crow Canyon Archaeological Center located in southwest Colorado—to improve your knowledge of topics related to anthropology before jumping into your post-secondary education. Also, when applying to colleges and universities, be sure you focus on the quality of and educational opportunities provided by various college and university anthropology departments to choose a school that you feel will best prepare you for your future career goals.

The College of William & Mary

The College of William & Mary, founded in 1693 and located in Williamsburg, VA, is the second oldest college in America and home to an anthropology department unlike any other. With its intense focus on anthropological aspects of Colonial Williamsburg in addition to history, music, and American studies, there’s no denying both undergraduate and graduate students will receive top-of-the-line educations to set them apart from all other job applicants in various fields. The program requirements have students delve into each of the four main types of anthropology, preparing them for a wide range of occupations that analyze past and present human behavior. Graduate students can earn a Master of Arts in Historical Anthropology or Historical Archaeology or a doctoral degree in either historical anthropology or historical archaeology. The college also has an anthropology club that all students are welcome to join.

University of Washington

The University of Washington’s Department of Anthropology provides excellent undergraduate and graduate programs in the subject. With high-end research facilities and equipment, students at the University of Washington in Seattle gain valuable experience for real-life applications upon graduating with a degree in anthropology. The undergraduate program allows students to choose options that coincide with the anthropology bachelors degree, including subjects that cover anthropological approaches to globalization, health, and science. Graduate students can earn doctoral degrees in archaeology, biological anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology. The Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington also offers students particular writing services and reference materials at its unique Anthropology Writing Center.

East Carolina University

East Carolina University offers its students outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs in anthropology that educate students on evolution theories and studies and how they can be studied through subjects like archaeology, biology, and cultural studies. The department openly encourages students to gain experience in research facilities on campus by working side by side with faculty on research projects. Undergraduate students can earn a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology or may choose anthropology as a minor if they prefer to earn a bachelors degree in another subject. Students earning a bachelors degree in anthropology are also encouraged to become certified in either Forensic Anthropology or Cultural Resources Management to advance their career options upon graduating. Graduate students earning a Master of Arts in Anthropology can focus their studies in everything from primate studies to medical anthropology to religious studies.

Careers in Anthropology

Before you graduate from a higher education facility with a degree in anthropology, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with various career paths in the field in order to focus your studies around your career of choice. This section contains a variety of jobs in the field of anthropology.

Many career opportunities are available within the cultural resource management industry, especially. The cultural resource management industry focuses on the preservation of grounds and artifacts of past societies to make discoveries and ultimately improve education in all subjects. It is also often an ideal industry for individuals who possess bachelor degrees in subjects relevant to cultural preservation and protection, including but not limited to, anthropology, architecture, and history. For example, government agencies and other companies may hire archaeologists and museum curators to contribute to the discovery, care, and safeguard of historical sites and artifacts

Entry Level Careers in Anthropology

Upon earning a bachelors degree in anthropology with various levels of research experience, you may qualify for one or more of the positions briefly described here.


Fundraisers spend much of their time devoted to developing ideas on ways to raise money for their organizations. They not only create and implement events to collect donations and promote awareness of the purposes of their organizations but they also often oversee volunteers and provide them with the training necessary to assist in the fundraising process. Fundraisers are highly organized, as they need to keep strict records on past donors and potential donors for future use. They also have particularly excellent verbal communication skills. A fundraiser typically possesses background knowledge in communications and business and a bachelors degree in any of a wide variety of subjects. Linguistic anthropology and applied anthropology can prove useful to know how to best appeal to a targeted audience.

Fundraisers may earn over $30,000 annually, based on education and experience levels.

Cultural Affairs Specialist

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Cultural affairs specialists focus on creating plans for and carrying out various cultural events and programs to promote community activities and provide education about specific cultures. They may also work with schools, community organizations, and libraries to plan and host the events and programs. Cultural affairs specialists often aid in the development of grant applications and may work alongside fundraisers. A bachelors degree is usually required to become a cultural affairs specialist, as is background knowledge in a specific culture. A cultural affairs specialist has a creative mindset and a passion for cultural arts as well as outstanding written and verbal communication skills.

Cultural affairs specialists may earn around $35,000 a year for their services, based on education and experience levels.

Advanced Careers in Anthropology

After earning a higher degree, such as a masters or doctoral degree in anthropology or a more specific field, and with extensive research experience you will most likely qualify for one or more of the occupations touched on in this area.

Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors research the probability of patients or their family members inheriting health issues or genetic disorders, such as congenital disabilities, based on family histories and other tests. Genetic counselors may present their results to other doctors or patients directly. Genetic counselors may meet with patients to discuss the risks of the procedures and potential treatment plans if a patient or family member of the patient is diagnosed with a genetic disorder. A genetic counselor possesses at least a masters degree in genetics or related field, but many counselors hold doctoral degrees. Background knowledge in anthropology can be helpful in this field, as well, and the American Board of Genetic Counseling certifies them.

Genetic counselors may earn around $55,000 annually, based on education, certification, and experience levels.

Cultural Anthropologist

Cultural anthropologists specialize in the study of past and present practices of human cultures to better understand developments and changes in human societies in specific regions over long periods. A cultural anthropologist may focus his or her time determining how civilizations originally formed or may specialize in the progression of customs within a specific culture. They usually possess at least a masters degree in anthropology, perhaps with a strong focus on the history of specific geographic locations, and the ability to work together in teams for further research.

Cultural anthropologists may earn around $56,000 a year, based on education and experience levels in addition to their specific concentrations.

Forensic Anthropologist

Forensic anthropologists help interpret evidence for law enforcement teams. They spend much of their time in the field observing evidence in its original location and laboratories examining proof. Most of the evidence they investigate consists of skeletal remains, typically of humans. They are also often asked to assist with transporting remains and even sometimes performing dental analysis on the victims for identification purposes. Conclusions drawn from evidence examination include the age, sex, and condition of the body at the time of death. Forensic anthropologists possess a bachelors degree in anthropology with a minor in forensics as well as a masters degree in anthropology. Doctoral degrees are even more beneficial for those looking for a career in forensic anthropology. Characteristics of these anthropologists include the ability to pay close attention to detail and background knowledge in forensic science.

Forensic anthropologists can earn over $60,000 annually, based on job duties and education level.

Museum Curator

Museum curators are responsible for everything from assisting in the arrangement of museum tours to choosing specific artifacts for purchase by and display within museums. Experience in the study of anthropology is incredibly beneficial, as a museum curator often also decides how to categorize and display artifacts within the museum to best portray artificial representations of past civilizations around the world. Museum curators possess degrees in subjects such as history and anthropology and often advanced degrees, such as masters degrees or doctoral degrees, in related fields. Excellent communication is one of the top traits for a museum curator because he or she is responsible for negotiating deals with sellers and in some cases, even giving presentations to visiting academic groups.

More advanced and experienced museum curators can earn over $80,000 a year, while it is not uncommon for many to make under $60,000.

Additional Careers in Anthropology

Government Anthropology Careers

You can work for federal, state, and regional government agencies. This includes research, planning, and managerial positions. These government positions include:

  • International development
  • Refugee services administrator
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Public administration
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Positions in defense and national security
  • Cultural resource management
  • Natural resource management
  • Legislative staff

Education Anthropology Careers

Many people with an anthropology degree choose to go into education, such as a teacher, professor, researcher, academic adviser, and counselors. These career opportunities include:

  • K-12 STEM teacher
  • Student affairs administration
  • Admissions advising and management
  • Public health
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Neuroscience
  • Community studies
  • Medicine
  • Cultural studies
  • Linguistics
  • Ecology
  • Ethnic studies
  • Education
  • ESL specialist

Business Anthropology Careers

Anthropologists can even go into the corporate business world. These positions include:

  • Clinical research coordination
  • Medical anthropology
  • Human resources
  • Market research
  • Inter-cultural communication
  • Lobbyist
  • International trade

Health Anthropology Careers

Some popular career choices include pre-med, pre-dental, and pre-veterinary training. These positions include:

  • Medicine
  • Epidemiology
  • Veterinary medicine
  • Public health
  • Forensics
  • Nursing
  • Dentistry
  • Pathology

Public Service Anthropology Careers

If your major has an emphasis in sociocultural anthropology, then you may want to choose a career in public service. These include:

  • Advocacy
  • Social work
  • Development
  • Political activism
  • Community organizing
  • Policy analysis
  • Historic preservation
  • Museum curation
  • Library science
  • Literacy programs

Companies that Hire People with Anthropology Degrees

Nonprofit organizations and companies around the world are continually searching for people with anthropology degrees, especially within the cultural resource management industry. Below is a brief list of examples to jump-start your career search in jobs for people with anthropology degrees.

Epsilon – various locations around the world; helps clients market their brands across the globe to build clientele and boost sales; hires positions for social anthropologists, applied anthropologists, research analysts, statisticians, etc.

Geometry Global – locations in 56 countries; world’s largest activation network, analyzing data to understand behavior and, ultimately, customer desires; hires positions for strategic planners, account executives, SEO managers, etc.

Alelo – headquarters in Los Angeles, CA; creates interactive technology as educational materials for military use, etc.; hires positions for linguists, anthropologists, translators, development leaders, etc.

EcoHealth Alliance – an international organization focusing on the conservation of biodiversity; hires positions for anthropologists, epidemiologists, social scientists, etc.

Answering the Question, “What Can You Do with a Degree in Anthropology?”

The field of anthropology is undoubtedly not shrinking, as our curiosity of the past is ever-growing. So many companies and organizations and even some government agencies are always in search of talented individuals with knowledge in past and present human behavior and culture. Earning a degree in anthropology just may be the best way to land the job of your dreams. Do you have what it takes to make the next great historical discovery?

Author: Rose Boettinger

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